Animism Is Not Poetry

Language was not invented by humans. Humans’ capacity to communicate and speak comes directly from the Land herself.

When I say that Rain and Ocean, Grasses and Vines, Frogs and Spiders, Engines and Teapots have voices, I am not being poetic or communicating with metaphors. To say these beings are voiceless, uncommunicative, or even mute is to deny their consciousness and validity, as well as suppress our own participation and responsibility in the experience of life. To reduce animism to poetry is a form of objectification. 

When we diminish animism to “quaint” or “poetic” ways of seeing the world, we deny and forget the deep, practical, and tangible meanings of the languages that surround us. It comes as no surprise that when we stifle our senses, our intuition, our ability to know and un-know, meaning becomes lost—meaning in language, meaning in role, meaning in purpose, meaning in life. When meaning is lost, there is an impoverishment or extinction of language. (Monoculture results from language eradication). We make the mistake in thinking language must be audible or that it must mimic how humans speak, write, or gesture for it to be credible. Yet much of the natural and human-made world communicates silently and invisibly. We also err when we believe human language is more sophisticated and complex than the languages of our non-human counterparts. (Note how this way of thinking is deeply colonialistic).

Folks ask why I can perceive things that are profoundly true and real that are not yet perceptible to them—in other words, how does one become more intuitive and psychic? One would think this question has nothing to do with animism.

My response every time:

  • (re)learn a non-human/more-than-human language,
  • engage through your senses,
  • be willing to learn from the Unseen,
  • don’t deny irrational / inexplicable experiences,
  • stop othering. 

It is arrogant to deem meaning does not exist when we simply do not understand how to make meaning. Likewise when we say animism is a “lyrical” way to relate with Nature or existence. To return to kinship with each other as humans, and with non-humans, is to acknowledge the Seen and Unseen as alive and with speech, requires the skill of making meaning. Language (and meaning) must be relational and specific for it to be effective. It’s not enough and potentially dangerous when we attach self-absorbed or self-serving meaning, or approach things with post-modern bypassing of “anything can mean anything”. 

May we listen far more than we speak, may we understand that the ground is lifting us when rise to our feet, may we come to understand the background in our life as being as real as the foreground, may we return to the knowledge that the Land sung us into existence.


Animist-spirit medium + founder of Ceremonie